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COMMENTARY: A few life lessons from an 0-16 season

You have to feel for Corey Coleman. He’s the Cleveland Browns receiver who let a perfect pass from DeShone Kizer slip right through his hands to finally end a season of total 0-16 misery.

At that moment the Browns were driving down the field near the end of the fourth quarter in an attempt to score the go-ahead touchdown against their arch-nemesis Pittsburgh Steelers. I have cheered for this team since 1960, and I remember so well their last NFL title in 1964, led by the great Jim Brown. I, like so many, have suffered through ups and mostly downs ever since.

Because I am a coach (tennis, not football), I must always look beyond the agony of defeat for positive takeaways that involve sports. Here are some that apply to my team:

1) Learn from your mistakes. I’m sure the coaching staff has kept track of the woeful statistics involving turnovers, incomplete passes, missed tackles and penalties. In real life, we must make amends for hurtful comments made to our friends and family members. In the workplace, we can always improve client service, systems monitoring and project direction.

2) Keep things in perspective. I am the first to admit that there is a little extra spring in my step when my team wins. When losing happens, I have to realize that it is only a game. A loss should not keep me from feeding a family in need. A shutout pales in comparison to losing a loved one, or a home, or a job.

3) Hope springs eternal. Since 1999 (when the Browns generated a new team in a brand new stadium) the fans have put faith in the front office to make good decisions about drafting, trading and developing players. We have been sorely disappointed year after year. So let’s examine our own goals and resolutions. Are they realistic? Will we take the proper steps to achieve them? Will we push through disappointment with enough determination to succeed or help others succeed?

4) Make better use of your time. I think the Browns know what they have to do to get better in the off-season. If they don’t become smarter, faster and stronger than they are now, they are doomed to a cycle of failure. I made up my mind a few years ago to spend Sunday afternoons doing something more useful than watching my team lose another heartbreaker. I peek in on them now and then or change the radio station to AM 1290 if I am driving, but most of the time I am planning my week, doing yard work or catching up on emails. Football is one of our great autumn pastimes, and I am a great OSU fan (O-H-I-O!), but I also realize that a meaningful life demands more of me than time in front of the tube or in the stadium.

5) Relationships are more important than sports. I am not a Bengals fan. I call them my second favorite pro football team in Ohio. Still, when they were battling the Baltimore Ravens in the last game of the season and had a chance to defeat them on their final possession, I celebrated their victory because Cincinnati was playing for the sake of their dedicated coach, Marvin Lewis. Lewis was in danger of losing his 15-year head coaching position after two lackluster seasons, and his players knew it. They rose to the occasion and prevented the team that left Cleveland in 1995 from having another chance at a Super Bowl. I, too, realize that my wife, daughters, brother, sister, extended family, friends, students and players are more important than my dedication to any sports team. Fellow Browns fans, let’s keep our life priorities in order.

Jim Brooks is a retired English teacher who tutors foreign immigrants in the Dayton area.

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